What do you have to do to get dismissed from the Cabinet? Wee Dougie Alexander plainly has no idea as he remains today in post despite having been effectively found guilty of gerrymandering the Scottish elections in May. But the leech-like characteristics of Brown’s lickspittle cronies is nothing when compared with South Africa’s Manto Tshabalala Msimang.

In the United Kingdom, even the United Kingdom of Blair and Brown, this truly awful woman would have toast long ago. In South Africa, however, loyalty to your Boss counts for even more than it does here and, despite her having, on several counts, done enough for her to be a footnote in history, she clings with barnacle-like determination to the rock of office. Such is the extent of her awfulness that I shall have to post more

Where to start? Garlic, I think.

Some long time ago Dr. Msimang (the ‘Doctor’ is genuine, at least as genuine as getting your degree from the First Leningrad Medical Institute c. 1972 can make you) pronounced that HIV/AIDS had nothing to do with a virus that is transmitted by sexual intercourse or through infected blood (as most people in the world believe (on the basis of some rather sound scientific evidence) and so would not respond to expensive anti-retroviral drugs but rather would be cured by a healthy diet of olive oil, garlic and beetroot.

In espousing this ludicrous cure she has echoed some of the lunacies of SA President Thabo Mbeki who has in the past sought to blame it on Western-induced poverty. Subsequently, however, she has taken the whole thing somewhat further. Giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee she added to the mix:

“Raw garlic and skin of a lemon — not only do they give you a beautiful face, but they also protect you from the disease.”

She went on to warn of the ‘side-effects’ of anti-retroviral drugs:

“Nobody will stop me from doing that. It’s correct and proper. As a country we really have been vindicated in this regard. We are what we eat, and we are what we drink.”

As to the latter assertion we shall see just how true this is in due course. In the meantime she took time to weigh into the World Health Organisation whilst she was at it, criticizing them for not consulting her over its “3 by 5” campaign to put three million in Africa, Asia and Latin America on anti-retroviral drugs by 2005. Given her views on the subject, they could, perhaps, be forgiven for thinking that consulting her was a complete waste of time.

This rubbish provoked 81 scientists, including a Nobel Laureate, to write to President Mbeki calling for Dr. Garlic, as she is affectionately known, to be dismissed, a call studiously ignored by the President, who doubtless sympathised with her given the criticism he has received for his equally wacko ideas on HIV/AIDS.

There matters rested until August of this year. Then Dr. Garlic’s Junior Minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, elected to do her duty and attend an AIDS conference in Spain, apparently without the approval of either the good doctor or of the President himself. In addition she went unannounced to a hospital as a result of which she made some remarks thought to be critical of her Boss. As a result of espousing heresy Madlala-Routledge was summarily dismissed. She had earlier fallen foul of her boss by making public criticisms of the health services. Much was made at the time of the fact that Mbeki is deeply loyal to all of those who, as Dr. Garlic did, remained loyal to him throughout the years in exile. The AIDS lobby was suitably scathing, as well they might be, given that the only sane person in the lunatic asylum had just been removed.

Here is the Junior Minister’s account of matters:

Not long after, however, matters took a rather different turn. A South African newspaper revealed that the good Dr. Garlic had been employed as a doctor in Botswana in the 1970s and whilst there had been convicted of stealing the property, including jewellery, hats and handbags, of patients in the hospital where she was working as a result of which she had been deported.

That of itself would, one would like to think, would be enough in any democratic society, to end one’s days as a Government Minister. As we shall see, it has not been. But a more serious allegation was also made.

Dr. Garlic is a lush. As a result her liver had become, shall we say, quite pickled. She had, however, simply gone out and, jumping the queue, as one does if one is an MP or a Minister (they have just adopted a fledgling version of this idea in our very own House of Commons), she helped herself to a liver transplant.

The allegations having been made, what passes for a spin operation in South Africa went into panic mode. The Government simply turned off its mobile phones. In the meantime some deeply prevaricatory statements were issued and it was put about that she had some completely different problem with her liver and had not jumped any queues at all. A Doctor was apparently squared to say endorse this version of events

Next up came the suggestion that President Mbeki had personally intervened to get her a transplant (and to have her medical records ‘doctored’ to conceal the true diagnosis), for which the good Doctor would not normally have qualified under the assessment rules, particularly as she is an unreformed alcoholic.

That Mbeki himself had intervened suggests that the depth of his loyalty to Lieutenants who follow the Mbeki party line is effectively limitless.

The allegations were made by redoubtable Helen Zille, Mayor of Cape Town and leader of the Opposition Democratic Alliance, who is fast making a name for fearlessness in taking the fight to her political opponents (we could do with a bit of that round here) and were passed by her to the Public Protector with a view to investigate possible abuse of power by Mr. Mbeki.

There matters have remained until recently. The good Dr. Garlic continues in office and to drink like there is no tomorrow.

Instead of sending Dr. Garlic on her way to drunken oblivion, the Government has instead struck back at the press, causing an investigation into the newspaper that broke the liver story, the South African Sunday Times (not part of Murdoch’s group) and its editor, Mondli Makhanya to be carried out as a result of which Makhanya, and his deputy managing editor, Jocelyn Maker, face arrest under section 17 of the National Health Act for having received photo-copies of the minister’s private health records, which were sent by an anonymous source. It is an offence, apparently, to have unauthorized access to a patient’s medical records. Such was the high level of the investigation (in a country that has one of the worst crime problems in the world) that an officer was sent as far afield as New Zealand to conduct enquiries.

There we shall have to leave matters for the moment with the knowledge that as yet they remain at liberty but with the clear shadow of the oppressive power of the State hanging over them, and, as we shall see, increasing evidence of the ANC’s anti-democratic instincts and its desire to crack down on the freedom of the press.